Addis Ababa: The flight recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed a day before have been recovered by investigators, the airline said on Monday after several airlines grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets, the model involved in the accident that killed all 157 people on board. The Boeing 737 Max 8 — flight ET 302 — en route from Addis Ababa to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, crashed six minutes after take off on Sunday, promng the carrier to ground the rest of its fleet of the jets.
The devices recovered from the crash site were the cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder, the BBC reported. The months-old aircraft ploughed into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, some 60 km southeast of the Ethiopian capital. The cause of the disaster was not yet clear. However, the pilot had reported difficulties and had asked to return to Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines said.
Four Indians were among those who died in the crash. According to reports there were more than 30 nationalities on board the flight, including Kenyans, Canadians and Britons. The largest number were from Kenya. Among the dead were 22 UN staff, many heading for an assembly of the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi. Several airlines grounded the model following the crash. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC issued a notice on Monday morning ordering domestic airlines to suspend the commercial operations of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft before 6 p.m.
In October 2018, another aircraft of the same model being operated by Lion Air had crashed in Indonesia 12 minutes after take-off due to failures in the automatic system, killing 189 people on board. The CAAC said the decision was taken owing to security concerns after two other newly-delivered Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes had crashed similarly in the take-off phase. The regulator said the grounding of the planes was “in line with our principle of zero tolerance for safety hazards and strict control of safety risks”.
The CAAC said it would be contacting US aviation authorities and Boeing before restoring flights of the aircraft. The move affected hundreds of flights on Monday in China, where 13 carriers operate more than 90 of the Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, according to the Chinese media. EthioÂpian Airlines in a statement said the decision to suspend flying such aircraft was taken as a precautionary measure. “Although we don’t know the cause of the accident, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as extra safety precaution,” said the largest carrier in Africa.
Cayman Islands carriers announced a similar decision. Cayman Airways, which also flies the Boeing 737 Max 8 craft, announced it would ground the planes while the investigation into the crash was ongoing. According to the EthioÂpian Airlines, the pilot made a distress call saying he was having “difficulties” and got clearance to return, moments before losing contact with the control tower. He was identified as Yared Getachew, 28, of Addis Ababa. He had 8,000 hours of flight time and was the youngest pilot in EthioÂpian Airlines history to captain a Boeing 737.
According to a report in the Guardian, over 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are in operation and over 5,000 have been ordered worldwide since 2017. Several other carriers including Fiji Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Australia and Korean Air told the daily that they did not intend to ground their Boeing aircraft.